Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Andy Burgoyne’s Co Kerry Slope Extravaganza

It’s been 2 years since my last visit to Chris van Schoor in County Kerry, Southern Ireland and many fond memories of that trip are still well placed in my mind. The ability to combine a one day business trip to Dublin and a detour to Chris was just icing on the cake.

However nobody was aware of the sleeping giant in Iceland and when Eyjafjallajokull erupted and chucked shed loads of ash into the atmosphere then travel chaos ensued - how was I going to get to Dublin? Simple - I was booked on the Fastcat ferry - how else do you get 12 gliders over to Ireland of which 3 of them were 4 metres?

Having had some unexpected problems on the Friday at our Dublin office I didn’t actually get on the road until 7pm and then there was the 3 ½ hr drive ahead not helped by the usual Friday rush to escape the city. But despite the best efforts of the Irish motoring public try to either blind me with their headlights or just dawdle along at 40mph I arrived at my destination at about 10.45.

Chris and Lisa were exactly the same as last time I met them and it wasn’t many seconds (literally) that I’d got my first Guinness in my hand. After the customary greetings and conversation things soon got down to what lay ahead for the next 4 days. The weather although nice and sunny (what, no rain - that’s a first!) but there wasn’t much prospect of any wind - the F3F lads back home could already be heard muttering about transport costs to the first event and how could they make an early warning call to cancel.

In the intervening 2 years Chris has been a busy lad exploring all parts of County Kerry - it does help being a local planner as your job requires you to go out and about to inspect various bits of the county (model at the ready as well) . His searches had not been in vain and he told me of a bowl about 30 minutes away that he wanted to try and would suit the north easterlies we were expecting. The distances travelled on this trip were significantly less than 2 years ago when we would travel up to 2 hours away to get a good breeze off the sea.

So day one was to be at Caher Conree - an ancient hill fort with sheer drops on three sides. To get to the ruins it was a 2 hour walk which looked lovely but I hadn’t brought any oxygen with me so that was out of the question. We settled for flying at roughly a midpoint up from sea level at about 900’ up and were planning to take a picture of Chris launching from the car (from the sun roof) but the flying was so good we never did get round to taking it . On the last trip I was blown away by some of the sites we travelled to but this was something else again, there was an unobstructed valley for about 3 miles out to the shoreline and this just funnelled all the available breeze straight onto the slope face. I had told Chris before I left home that he really wanted a nice big 4 metre sport model and so had packed a SPARE Alpina for him! He loved it as I knew he would in the 5 to 10 mph winds we had, the big wings loved it and huge stall turns (or are they hammerheads?) and massive loops were the order of the day.

We had also taken a Typhoon, Miraj and Volcano with us but no more as it was the first day on a newish slope with a light forecast. So after a nice leisurely 5 hours of flying we called it a day at about 7pm and made our way back to the house. As soon as we got back Lisa wanted to know what time we wanted to eat, followed straight away with another Guinness - or was it Budweiser this time - so many days so many cans! Dinner arrived and is quite possibly the only time I have asked for a steak to be medium\well and it was spot on. Whilst I’m writing this I’m trying to reconcile in my head which was the best - the day’s flying or the steak ? ...steak wins.

Day 2 arrives and we seem to have a pattern developing here. 9ish very "ish" for breakfast followed by 3 hours of chatting on RCMF, fettling planes and generally messing about , including Chris showing me how you can fly electric from his front lawn. This was technically correct but landings were a bit tricky over the fence/hedge and round the trees, but Chris confidently showed me the ropes with his much battered (now I know why) Stryker. The Stryker whizzed about much as you would expect any brushless wing to with some nice low quick passes thrown in.

Landing involved flying out over a field, coming in over the fence and dropping down onto the lawn - in theory! In practice this involved Chris power diving down from height over the field, inside the fence and then levelling off on the lawn (except) if you time it wrong and hit the upslope of the not yet full pond, you then get the perfect Harrier ski jump to vault your now very slow Stryker over the drive and into the flower beds - cue hilarity all round!

The forecast for day 2 was pretty much the same as day 1 maybe a little more breeze. By the time we were ready to get the car loaded the F3Fers had already pretty much cancelled over in Wales. So we were off to Caher Conree again but this time prepared for more wind. Chris’s pride and joy at the moment is a lovely Reichard 4mtr Fox which up to this point was unflown so that was first in the car followed by the Alpinas, my Sting, the Miraj, a Vector III, a Voltij, and my M60 and Reaper for good measure. Suffice to say the lift once again was awesome and it wasn’t too long before the Fox was out and assembled on the grass awaiting its maiden voyage.

And what a maiden it was, within the first minute the plane was looping and yes it was intentional and Chris had a smile like the Cheshire cat. I had previously shown him a video of a friend’s Fox doing inverted spins so naturally enough Chris threw his into one… I was amazed and almost horrified but of course it all went as planned and after about 15 minutes my heart rate was back to normal. This Fox is very good value for money as for less than £500 you get a 3.75mtr scale model with a glass fuz and foam cored balsa/glass wings all painted and covered which although in scalie terms is quite light actually carries a lot of momentum through manoeuvres so you have the best of both worlds.

Not to be out done I had secreted away my Wizard DSXtreme into the car and weighing a healthy 4.5kg on a span of just 2.5mtr it needs a bit of a blow to get going, it was nothing to Caher Conree in possibly 18-19mph at the very most it may not have floated out of my hands but certainly had no difficulty gaining height with a bit of thermal flap. Chris was charged with taking photos but with my crap memory forgetting to turn the shutter speed up from 1\120th and the speed of the Wiz most of the photos came out a bit blurred. The flying was great but after 10 minutes of trying to eat up the whole of the Irish airspace I decided that enough was enough and went to land , now 15mph mega lift is ok but 15mph headwind with a heavy model and no matter how much crow you’ve got its coming in quick! All ended well though.

At this point Chris was thinking of flying the Voltij and so it was all ready to go when an MPV pulled up by us and in best broad merkin a voice asked “you gonna fly that thang?” to which Chris replied in the affirmative. Well the whooping and the hollering was truly splendid as the VJ speared out and did 3 consecutive rolls followed by a big loop , hang on that loops going a long way back and where’s all the airspeed gone? Oh dear - VJ sort of half spins half flops into the ditch beside the road with no damage at all. Our colonial cousins at this point all look and as one all say “its all good” and dive back into their car to escape any potential further injury.

The day finished off with me flying the Reaper and the M60 full of lead backwards and forwards on what must be a 1 mile course – honestly, a mile! I’ve not flown the M60 anywhere else where I could leave it to just fly in a straight line for what seemed like 30 seconds or more without so much as a tickle on the sticks. And so ended day 2…

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for all the others back home day 3 was pretty much a repeat of day 1 with lots of sun and 5 to 10mph winds - such hardship! The local TV and radio was full of the Icelandic dust cloud story as this seemed to be centred over Ireland and was causing travel chaos, so we decided to take precautions just in case it developed any further and you can see that we survived perfectly well in the accompanying photos. Chris had thought of getting his NBC suit out from his National Service in South Africa but decided not to as the thought of poaching the crown jewels didn’t really appeal.

Day 4 was to be spectacular as the wind had moved round to a more north easterly flow from the previous days and Chris had a new slope to try which he had only previously looked at but not flown. Annascaul is higher up than Caher Conree and does involve some walking (about 70 metres) and is located on a peat bog. Can someone more able than me please explain how you can have a bog on the top of a 1500’ mountain and I do mean on the top! It’s the most weird sensation walking on 6 feet of water logged compost and at anytime be able sink a foot into it. As the forecast was for 5mph then we didn’t take much heavy weight tackle with us - what a mistake to make!

I can now see why Chris finds it a little more difficult to fly on my home inland slopes. On his slopes back on the stick means up and forward means down and that’s it - more akin to power flying. He had his Miraj doing proper Dakinesque 200’ compression loops for a good 4 or 5 minutes with no effort what so ever, again not to be outdone I had a go with the M60 fully loaded and could have carried on until the light went. In the end 4 days of solid flying had taken its toll and we were all flown out after 3 or 4 hours and retired back to a local hostelry for some liquid refreshments and some equally wonderful seafood.

What can I say about the ring of Kerry …..? You’ve got to “fly it before you die”
Fabulous place to go - great people and scenery to die for. Must go back before the end of summer.

Thanks Chris and Lisa


Thanks to Andy for the superb article, and to Andy and Chris for the pictures!

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